Even before it hit theaters, the achingly essential follow-up to 2007’s surprise blockbuster Alvin & The Chipmunks blessed pop culture with an infectiously idiotic subtitle (The Squeakquel) destined to join “Electric Boogaloo” and “The Quickening” in the pantheon of sequel-based pop-culture punchlines. So perhaps it would be churlish to expect anything more from the movie. Sure enough, director Betty Thomas delivers pretty much the bare minimum: peppy, brightly colored, tune-filled nonsense sure to meet the low, low standards of its pre-kindergarten core audience.
A film that promises to resolve all the nagging questions left at the end of Alvin And The Chipmunks, yet invites questions of its own, The Squeakquel finds the titular trio enrolling in high school in spite of their lack of an elementary-school education. Brash troublemaker Alvin, the bad-boy Donnie Wahlberg of the bunch, falls in with the jocks and joins the football team, though there’s a substantial risk that he’ll get trampled to death on his very first down. Ah, but Alvin has more to worry about than getting crushed underfoot by a linebacker. As a means of destroying his former protégés, revenge-mad arch-nemesis David Cross—who at one point roots around in a Dumpster, in a vivid visual metaphor for his participation in these films—has become a Svengali for The Chipettes, a rival trio of singing chipmunks,.
Jason Lee just barely reprises his role as the title character’s alternately loving and apoplectic guardian. In a performance that can best be described as “contractually obligated,” he spends nearly the entire film in a hospital bed, leaving the boys in the questionable hands of his work-averse, videogame-obsessed loser cousin (affable Chuck star Zachary Levi). The Squeakquel regurgitates well-worn high-school-movie clichés, though the species of its title characters give the film some weird undertones, like when the high-school’s jocks fear romantic competition from an 8-inch-tall rodent. Militantly inoffensive and cheerfully bland, the film aspires to be nothing more than a passable babysitter, and it more or less succeeds. Considering that the original grossed nearly half a billion dollars in worldwide theatrical revenue and DVD sales, a second ferociously adequate squeakquel appears inevitable.